Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone - biography
Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone (pronounced /stəˈloʊn/; born July 6, 1946), nicknamed Sly Stallone,is an American actor, filmmaker, screenwriter, and film director. Stallone is known for his machismo and Hollywood action roles. Two of the notable characters he has portrayed include boxer Rocky Balboa and soldier John Rambo. The Rocky and Rambo franchises, along with several other films, strengthened his reputation as an actor and his box office earnings.
Stallone's film Rocky was inducted into the National Film Registry as well as having its film props placed in the Smithsonian Museum. Stallone's use of the front entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Rocky series led the area to be nicknamed the Rocky Steps. Philadelphia has a statue of his Rocky character placed permanently near the museum, on the right side before the steps.
Sylvester Stallone was born in New York City, the son of Frank Stallone, Sr., an Italian immigrant hairdresser, and Jackie Stallone (born Jacqueline Labofish), an astrologer, former dancer, and promoter of women's wrestling. He is the brother of actor and musician Frank Stallone. Stallone's father was born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily and emigrated to the United States as a child, while Stallone's mother was of Russian Jewish and French descent.
Complications his mother suffered during labor forced her obstetricians to use two pairs of forceps during his birth; misuse of these accidentally severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone's face. As a result, the lower left side of his face is paralyzed, including parts of his lip, tongue, and chin, an accident which has given Stallone his trademark snarling look and slightly slurred speech. He spent his first five years in Hell's Kitchen, bouncing between foster homes while his parents endured a loud, troubled marriage. Eventually reunited with them, Stallone's odd face made him an outcast in school, where he was often suspended for fighting, other behavior problems, and poor grades. His father, a beautician, moved the family to Washington DC, where he opened a beauty school. His mother opened a women's gymnasium called Barbella's in 1954. They divorced when Stallone was 11, and he was later sent to a special high school for "troubled kids," where he was voted "most likely to end up in the electric chair".
He enrolled in the Theater Arts Department at University of Miami for three years. He came within a few credit hours of graduation before he decided to drop out and pursue a career writing screenplays under the pen names Q. Moonblood and J.J. Deadlock (under neither of which names he sold any scripts) while at the same time taking bit parts in movies.
Italian Stallion and Score
Stallone had his first starring role in the soft core pornography feature film The Party at Kitty and Stud's (1970). He was paid $200 for two days' work. Stallone later explained that he had done the film out of desperation after being bounced out of his apartment and finding himself homeless for several days. He has also said that he slept three weeks in the New York City Port Authority bus station prior to seeing a casting notice for the film. In the actor's words, "it was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end — the very end — of my rope". The film was released several years later as Italian Stallion, in order to cash on Stallone's new found fame (the new title was taken from Stallone's nickname since Rocky and a line from the film).
An "uncut" version of the film was released in 2007, purporting to show actual hardcore footage of Stallone, but according to trade journal AVN, the hardcore scenes were inserts not involving the actor. It was played by a different actor because Stallone thought it would not be good for his career if he had done those hardcore scenes. In 2008, scenes from Party at Kitty and Stud's surfaced in a German version of Roger Colmont's hardcore-film White Fire (1976).
Stallone also starred in the erotic off-Broadway stage play Score which ran for 23 performances at the Martinique Theatre from October 28 - November 15, 1971 and was later made into a film by Radley Metzger. .
Early film roles, 1970–1975
In addition to The Party at Kitty and Stud's, in 1970 Stallone appeared in the film No Place to Hide, which was re-cut and retitled Rebel, the second version featuring Stallone as its star. After the style of Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, this film, in 1990, was re-edited from outtakes from the original movie and newly shot matching footage, then redubbed into an award-winning parody of itself titled A Man Called... Rainbo. Again starring Stallone, this self-parody was directed by David Casci and produced by Jeffrey Hilton. A Man Called...Rainbo won Silver Awards at the Chicago International Film Festival and Worldfest - Houston, and was featured on Entertainment Tonight along with its credited star, Sylvester Stallone. It received a Thumbs-Up on Siskel & Ebert, and was recommended by Michael Medved on the popular movie review show, Sneak Previews.
Stallone's other first few film roles were minor, and included brief uncredited appearances in Woody Allen's Bananas (1971) as a subway thug, in the psychological thriller Klute (1971) as an extra dancing in a club, and in the Jack Lemmon film The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975) as a youth. In the Lemmon film, Jack Lemmon chases, tackles and mugs Stallone, thinking that Stallone's character is a pickpocket. He had his second starring role in The Lords of Flatbush, in 1974. In 1975, he played supporting roles in Farewell, My Lovely; Capone; and Death Race 2000. He made guest appearances on the TV series Police Story and Kojak.
Success with Rocky, 1976
Stallone gained worldwide fame with his starring role in the smash hit Rocky (1976). On March 24, 1975, Stallone saw the Muhammad Ali–Chuck Wepner fight, which inspired the foundation idea of Rocky. That night Stallone went home, and in three days he had written the script for Rocky. After that, he tried to sell the script with the intention of playing the lead role. Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler in particular liked the script. A highly entertaining story about how Rocky was made was widely circulated after the film was completed. As the story goes, a broke Stallone refused ever larger sums of money (that he desperately needed) to sell the highly valued script because he insisted—against studio wishes—that he play the lead role. The studio wanted a name star. According to the legend, the studio finally relented by paying Stallone a modest $18,000 for the script with the agreement that the film would be made on a shoestring budget. It was revealed years later that this story was largely made up, a marketing gimmick concocted by the studio to reinforce the underdog theme of the film. Rocky went through a development process that was much more mundane than this rags-to-riches fable would suggest. Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards in all, including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Stallone. Rocky went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing.
Rocky, Rambo and new film roles, 1978–1989
The sequel Rocky II, which Stallone had also written and directed (replacing John G. Avildsen, who won an Academy Award for directing the first film) was released in 1979 and also became a major success, grossing $200 million.
Apart from the Rocky films, Stallone did many other films in the late 1970s and early 1980s which were critically acclaimed but were not successful at the box office. He received critical praise for films such as F.I.S.T. (1978), a social, epic styled drama in which he plays a warehouse worker, very loosely modeled on James Hoffa, who becomes involved in the labor union leadership, and Paradise Alley (1978), a family drama in which he plays one of three brothers who is a con artist and who helps his other brother who is involved in wrestling. Stallone made his directorial debut directing Paradise Alley.
In the early 1980s, he starred alongside British veteran Michael Caine in Escape to Victory (1981), a sports drama in which he plays a prisoner of war involved in a Nazi propaganda soccer game. Stallone then made the action thriller film Nighthawks (1981), in which he plays a New York city cop who plays a cat and mouse game with a foreign terrorist, played by Rutger Hauer.
Stallone had another major franchise success as Vietnam veteran John Rambo, a former Green Beret, in the action-war film First Blood (1982). The first installment of Rambo was both a critical and box office success. The critics praised Stallone's performance, saying he made Rambo seem human, as opposed to the way he is portrayed in the book of the same name, in First Blood and in the other films. Three Rambo sequels Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rambo followed. Although box office hits, they met with much less critical praise than the original. He also continued his box office success with the Rocky franchise and wrote, directed and starred in two more sequels to the series: Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985). Stallone has portrayed these two characters in a total of eleven films. In preparation for these roles, Stallone embarked upon a vigorous training regime which often meant six days a week in the gym and further sit ups in the evenings. Stallone claims to have got his body fat percentage down to his all time low of 2.8% for Rocky III.
It was during this time period that Stallone's work cultivated a strong overseas following. He also attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, roles in different genres when he co-wrote and starred in the comedy film Rhinestone (1984) where he played a wannabe country music singer and the drama film Over the Top (1987) where he played a struggling trucker who, after the death of his wife, tries to make amends with his son who he left behind years earlier. His son doesn't think too highly of him until he sees him compete in a nation-wide arm wrestling competition. For the Rhinestone soundtrack, he performed a song. These films did not do well at the box office and were poorly received by critics. It was around 1985 that Stallone was signed to a remake of the 1939 James Cagney classic Angels With Dirty Faces. The film would form part of his multi-picture deal with Cannon Pictures and was to co-star Christopher Reeve and be directed by Menahem Golan. The re-making of such a beloved classic was met with disapproval by Variety Magazine and horror by top critic Roger Ebert and so Cannon opted to make Cobra instead. Cobra (1986) and Tango and Cash (1989) did solid business domestically but overseas they did blockbuster business grossing over $100 million in foreign markets and over $160 million worldwide.
With the then recent success of Lock Up and Tango and Cash, at the start of the 1990s Stallone starred in the fifth installment of the Rocky franchise Rocky V which was considered a box office disappointment and was also disliked by fans as an unworthy entry in the series.
After starring in the critical and commercial disasters Oscar (1991) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) during the early 90s, he made a comeback in 1993 with the hit Cliffhanger which was a success in the U.S. grossing $84 million but even more successful worldwide, grossing $171 million for a total over US$255 million. Later that year he starred with Wesley Snipes in the futuristic action film Demolition Man which grossed in excess of $158 million worldwide. His string of hits continued with 1994's The Specialist (over $170 million worldwide gross).
In 1995, he played the comic book based title character Judge Dredd, who was taken from the British comic book 2000 AD in the film of the same name. His overseas box office appeal saved the domestic box office disappointment of Judge Dredd which cost almost $100 million barely made it's budget back with a worldwide tally of $113 million. He also appeared in the thriller Assassins (1995) with co stars Julianne Moore and Antonio Banderas. In 1996, he starred in the disaster film Daylight which was not very successful in the US but still grosses $126 million overseas. That same year Stallone, along with an all-star cast of celebrities, appeared in the Trey Parker and Matt Stone short comedy film Your Studio and You commissioned by the Seagram Company for a party celebrating their acquisition of Universal Studios and the MCA Corporation. Stallone speaks in his Rocky Balboa voice with subtitles translating what he was saying. At one point, Stallone starts yelling about how can they use his Balboa character, that he left it in the past; the narrator calms him with a wine cooler and calling him, "brainiac." In response, Stallone says, "Thank you very much." He then looks at the wine cooler and exclaims, "Stupid cheap studio!"
Following his breakthrough performance in Rocky, critic Roger Ebert had once said Stallone could become the next Marlon Brando, though he never quite recaptured the critical acclaim achieved with Rocky. Stallone did, however, go on to receive much acclaim for his role in the low budget crime drama Cop Land (1997) in which he starred alongside Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta, but the film was only a minor success at the box office. His performance led him to win the Stockholm International Film Festival Best Actor Award. In 1998 he did voice-over work for the computer-animated film Antz, which was a big hit domestically.
In 2000, Stallone starred in the thriller Get Carter — a remake of the 1971 British Michael Caine film of the same name—but the film was poorly received by both critics and audiences. Stallone's career declined considerably after his subsequent films Driven (2001), Avenging Angelo (2002) and D-Tox (2002) also underachieved expectations to do well at the box office and were poorly received by critics.
In 2003, he played a villainous role in the third installment of the Spy Kids trilogy Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over which was a huge box office success (almost $200 million worldwide). Stallone also had a cameo appearance in the 2003 French film Taxi 3 as a passenger.
Following several poorly reviewed box office flops, Stallone started to regain prominence for his supporting role in the neo-noir crime drama Shade (2003) which was only released in a limited fashion but was praised by critics. He was also attached to star and direct a film tentatively titled Rampart Scandal, which was to be about the murder of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. and the surrounding Los Angeles Police Department corruption scandal. It was later titled Notorious but was shelved.
In 2005, he was the co-presenter, alongside Sugar Ray Leonard, of the NBC Reality television boxing series The Contender. That same year he also made a guest appearance in two episodes of the television series Las Vegas. In 2005, Stallone also inducted wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, who appeared in Rocky III as a wrestler named Thunderlips, into the WWE Hall of Fame; Stallone was also the person who offered Hogan the cameo in Rocky III.
Revisiting Rocky and Rambo, 2006–2008
After a three year hiatus from films, Stallone made a comeback in 2006 with the sixth installment of his successful Rocky series, Rocky Balboa, which was a critical and commercial hit. After the critical and box office failure of the previous installment Rocky V, Stallone had decided to write, direct and star in a sixth installment which would be a more appropriate climax to the series. The total domestic box office came to $70.3 million (and $155.7 million worldwide). The budget of the movie was only $24 million. His performance in Rocky Balboa has been praised and garnered mostly positive reviews.
Stallone's fourth installment of his other successful movie franchise, Rambo, with the sequel being titled simply Rambo. The film opened in 2,751 theaters on January 25, 2008, grossing $6,490,000 on its opening day and $18,200,000 over its opening weekend. Its box office was $113,244,290 worldwide with a budget of $50 million. Asked in February 2008 which of the icons he would rather be remembered for, Stallone said "it's a tough one, but Rocky is my first baby, so Rocky."
Other film work
Stallone's debut as a director came in 1978 with Paradise Alley, which he also wrote and starred in. In addition, he directed Staying Alive (the sequel to Saturday Night Fever), along with Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa, and Rambo. In August 2005, Stallone released his book Sly Moves which claimed to be a guide to fitness and nutrition as well as a candid insight into his life and works from his own perspective. The book also contained many photographs of Stallone throughout the years as well as pictures of him performing exercises. In addition to writing all six Rocky films, Stallone also wrote Cobra, Driven, and Rambo. He has co-written several other films, such as F.I.S.T., Rhinestone, Over the Top, and the first three Rambo films. His last major success as a co-writer came with 1993's Cliffhanger. In addition, Stallone has continued to express his passion in directing a film on Edgar Allan Poe's life, a script he has been preparing for years. In July 2009, he appeared in a cameo in the Bollywood movie Kambakkht Ishq where he played himself, for which he has been nominated by the Indian version of Razzies, Golden Kela Awards.
Stallone will also provide the voice of a lion in Kevin James's planned comedy The Zookeeper. Stallone has also mentioned that he would like to adapt a Nelson DeMille novel, The Lion's Game and James Byron Huggin's novel Hunter, which Stallone had the film rights for several years and originally planned to use the plot from Hunter for Rambo V. In 2009, Stallone expressed interest in starring in a remake of Charles Bronson's 1974 movie Death Wish.
The Expendables was Stallone's big success of 2010. The movie, which was filmed during summer/winter 2009, was released on August 13, 2010. Stallone wrote, directed and stars in the movie. Joining him in the film were fellow action stars Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren plus Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, and Stone Cold Steve Austin as well as much anticipated cameos for fellow '80s action icons Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Indeed, the cameos of Willis and Schwarzenegger have been pushed quite heavily in the promotion of the movie. Due to the overwhelmingly positive reaction to early test footage and trailers, producer Avi Lerner has reported that there is already talk of making two more sequels, or at least some sort of a longer franchise, based on the members of the team. The movie took $34,825,135 in its opening weekend, going straight in at #1 in the US box office. The figure marked the biggest opening weekend in Stallone's illustrious 35 year career. In summer 2010, Brazilian company O2 Filmes released a statement saying it was still owed more than $2 million US for its work on the film. Stallone also confirmed the planned Rambo V was cancelled in May 2010. The movie was officially greenlit by Nu Image/Millenium Films in September 2009 and initially Stallone said the movie was to be entitled Rambo V: The Savage Hunt and would be loosely based on a novel called Hunter (a novel to which Stallone had the rights for ten years), involving Rambo hunting a "feral beast". In November 2009 Stallone confirmed that the story has been switched and that the man/beast hunt story will be saved for an unrelated film. Rambo V will now be based on Rambo searching for women who disappeared in a town over the Mexican border. It was confirmed by Stallone himself in May 2010 that he has scrapped Rambo V (and "retired" Rambo) in order to work on The Expendables sequel.